Almost Killed by a Fashion Doll
It started at one of Molly's friend's birthday
party. Lying wrapped up in the stack of presents
was a secret gift from the grandmother. Before the
parents could do anything about it BARBIE had
emerged. Molly's eyes were wide as she struggled to
get a turn holding this new doll and changing her
clothes. I felt a sense of impending
On the ride home from the party Molly popped the
question. "Can I get a BARBIE for my birthday?" I
tried to explain: "Well you see Molly, BARBIE's
body is not shaped like regular people's bodies.
It's shaped like how some people think women are
supposed to look. And if people grow up thinking
they are supposed to look like BARBIE they won't
feel proud of the way they do look." Molly didn't
nod. I could tell she didn't have the slightest
idea what I was talking about.
As her birthday approached she repeated her
question with increasing frequency. None of my
responses had any effect. Finally, my wife Sue and
I decided that we can't protect her from
everything, and off we went in search of BARBIE. As
we entered Toys R Us I was immediately overwhelmed
at the size. Sue began studying the store
directory. My brain sort of fogged over. There was
a swing set display in front of me. Was I supposed
to buy the $199 one with the five foot slide or the
really spiffy one with the 7.5 foot slide for $499.
"How good a dad am I?" I started to
Sue tugged on my arm, which felt limp. BARBIE
was not hard to find. More than half the doll
section at Toys R Us is her exclusive showcase. I
walked down several aisles of BARBIE wearing this
and BARBIE wearing that. I thought of how much
Molly might spend on clothes as a teenager. My ears
started to buzz and I felt a little dizzy. "Sue," I
said, "maybe there is a dress up doll that is not
BARBIE." We looked at the alternatives. There was
one row of dolls that all looked like prostitutes.
Little girls were supposed to dress these dolls up.
Why was I fantasizing about undressing them? Then
there were the Disney dolls. A chance to be the
pawn of both the movie and retail industries at the
I staggered back to BARBIE, a headache building
rapidly. "It's not just her body and her clothes,"
I said to Sue, "It's her whole lifestyle. BARBIE's
favorite pastime is shopping. And flirting with
ultraviolet overexposed bodybuilders who must work
double shifts to afford their sports cars. Does
BARBIE ever question authority? Does BARBIE think
for herself? Will BARBIE help Molly think for
I could feel my pulse pounding in my head and my
stomach ache was so tight I was leaning forward.
Sue said I looked very pale. She brought me
SKIPPER. SKIPPER is better than BARBIE she said
because SKIPPER has flat feet and won't develop low
back pain from always wearing high heels. Also,
SKIPPER is more politically correct because she is
black. "Great," I thought, "Soon every girl in the
world will be playing with the same set of dolls
and learning the same set of values, defined by our
captains of industry."
That's all I remember. Sue said my eyes rolled
back and my legs just gave out. Luckily she was
standing right there and caught me. She carried me
out to the car. When I came to I was lying in the
grass at a nearby park. At first I just heard the
wind in the trees above me. Then I felt Sue holding
my hand and placing a wet cloth on my forehead.
"It's okay," she was saying, "we don't have to buy
a BARBIE." I repeated her words slowly to myself,
"We don't have to buy a BARBIE." Sue said she had
bought some clay and we could make our own dolls.
"But I don't know how to make a doll, I whined.
"We'll learn," she said. "We'll all learn
© 2008, Tim
Other Father Issues,
* * *
Your children need your presence more than your
presents. - Jesse Jackson
Hartnett, Ph.D. is a licensed Marriage and Family
Therapist in private practice in Santa Cruz, CA. He
specializes in Individual Counseling, Couples
Therapy, and Divorce Mediation. He can be reached
at 831.464.2922 or through his website:
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